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Reduce Personal Stress : Relax Mentally

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Everyone has to find his peace from within . . . and peace, to be real, must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

—Everyone has to find his peace from within . . . and peace, to be real, must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

Mental relaxation techniques form an important part of your stress “armoury”. Used in conjunction with techniques like deep breathing, they are a powerful method of calming your reaction to stressful situations.

Use Imagery to Relax

Imagery is a potent method of stress reduction, especially when combined with physical relaxation methods such as deep breathing. The principle behind imagery is that you can use your imagination to recreate, and enjoy, a relaxing situation. The more intensely you imagine the situation, the more relaxing the experience will be. You can use imagery to prepare for a big event, rehearsing mentally and practising in advance for anything unusual that might occur. Imagery also allows you to pre-experience achievement of your goals to boost your self-confidence. This is a technique that is used by successful athletes.

Techniques to Practise

One common use of imagery in relaxation is to imagine a scene or event that you remember as safe, peaceful, and happy.

  • When you are under pressure, sit down in a quiet place, and recall your happy memory.

  • Bring all your senses into the image with, for example, sounds of running water and birds, the smell of cut grass, the warmth of the sun.

  • Use this happy, beautiful place as a retreat from stress and pressure.

  • Imagine all of your stress, distractions, and ordinary, everyday concerns flowing out of your body.

Meditate Stress Away

By relaxing your body and focusing your thoughts on one thing for a sustained period, your mind is occupied and diverted from the problems that are causing you stress. This gives your body time to relax and recuperate, and to clear away any stress hormones. Begin by sitting quietly and comfortably. Relax your muscles, starting with your feet and working up your body, then use one of the following methods of focusing your concentration:

  • Focus on your breathing – With your eyes closed, breathe in deeply and then let your breath out. Do this for ten or 20 minutes.

  • Focus on an object – Focus your entire attention on an object – its shape, colour differences, texture, temperature, and movement.

  • Focus on a mental image – This can be a very refreshing way to meditate. Here, you create a mental image of a pleasant and relaxing place.

It is important to keep your attention focused. If external thoughts or distractions wander into your mind, let them drift out until you can focus your mind again.

If you find it difficult to get yourself started on meditation, join a meditation class to learn the basic techniques and then use them in your daily life.

Use Self-Hypnosis

Hypnosis has a dubious image, but it is a useful tool for achieving deep relaxation. Like meditation, self-hypnosis helps you to relax your body, allows stress hormones to subside, and distracts your mind from unpleasant thoughts. The relaxation achieved with self-hypnosis can be intense. Together with meditation and imagery, self-hypnosis can be used as part of a comprehensive daily stress management routine.

Use Affirmations

Unlike meditation, self-hypnosis can be combined with affirmations (positive statements) to manage stress and build self-confidence. If you want to use positive affirmations, prepare them before you start the session, as you will not want to think about them once you have achieved a state of deep relaxation.

Techniques to Practise

The two principal elements of self-hypnosis are relaxation and suggestion.

Once you have relaxed your body you can utilize the power of suggestion to deepen your state of relaxation, introducing affirmations to your suggestion, if you believe that this will be beneficial.

  • Begin by finding somewhere comfortable and quiet, and sitting down. Close your eyes, and imagine waves of relaxation running through your body from your scalp downwards, washing out any stress you feel.

  • Use suggestion to deepen the state of relaxation. This can be as simple as saying, “I am feeling relaxed and comfortable” to yourself, or you might use the traditional approach of telling yourself that you are tired and sleepy.

  • Once you feel completely relaxed, mix in the affirmations you have prepared with the relaxation suggestions.

Use Bio-Feedback

Imagery and other relaxation techniques can be shown to work by using biofeedback devices.

  • These are electronic sensors that measure indicators of your stress levels, such as the electrical conductance of your skin, and feed them back as a dial reading or an audible signal.

  • This enables you to observe for yourself the real effect of these relaxation techniques.

  • By imagining pleasant and unpleasant scenes, for example, you can actually see or hear the levels of stress in your body decreasing or increasing.

Let Sound Relax You

NOTE

There’s a relaxation technique to suit everyone

Imagery, meditation, and self-hypnosis are all active mental techniques that require concentration. An alternative, and equally valid, approach is to listen to calming music, or to pre-recorded relaxation MP3s or hypnosis CDs. It requires no effort to listen to these, and this may be very welcome at the end of a long, hard day’s work. If you commute by public transport, try listening to them on a personal stereo as you travel home from work. Soothing music and natural sounds can also be used to accompany the more active relaxation methods discussed here. You can buy relaxing music in many places, including several specialist websites, but an alternative approach is to record tapes for yourself and develop routines tailored to your needs.

Tip

Don’t use sound as a source of relaxation when you’re driving – you need to stay alert!

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